Thinking outside the box

QUALITY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING: Bron and Sandy Kemp, pictured here with their children, own Twisted Citrus and say they are driven by quality. Photo supplied

It is fitting that when Bron and Sandy Kemp and their fledgling Twisted Citrus company got their first order they were at Rainbow’s End with their children.

The ensuing two years have certainly been a roller coaster ride — albeit more up than down.

This is a couple who like to think outside the box.

It was 2014 and Sandy was selling their oranges at the side of the road in Hawke’s Bay.

“The money was rubbish for oranges so we were trying to think of different ways to sell them,” remembers Bron.

The feedback from grateful customers underlined what they already knew — Gisborne oranges were the best. So they turned to the internet.

“We saw they were doing it in Aussie and knew a lot of people were going online to shop.”

Key to their move though was the provenance of the fruit — people wanted to know exactly where the fruit was coming from.

The name was hatched and a website was created — which in itself was far more work than Bron had ever imagined.

Then it was a matter of wait and see.

“We were in Auckland at Rainbow’s End and the first order came through. It was a weird kind of feeling but neat to get to that point. So much had gone into getting that far.”

The boxes of oranges were proving a hit — particularly in the South Island, closely followed by Auckland — and soon customers were asking for more variety . . . lemons, limes, avocados, tamarillos and grapefruit joined the mandarin and orange staples.

“When we started, I wasn’t really prepared that it would be a full-time job for me.”

It is a juggle for this former nurse. She loves nothing more than being a mum for their children Hattie (13), Joe (11) and Stella (9), and likes to be there for them after school.

“Twisted Citrus has morphed into something a lot more than we thought it would.”

Social media has been a big driver for the company, which had 242 percent growth in its first year and already 160 percent this year.

“We launched at the right time as it is tougher now on Facebook as you get less visibility. It was much easier to get our message out there before.”

And their customers generally become their biggest advertisement as word of mouth spreads about just how good their product is.

Everything is picked to order.

“That makes us different from everyone else,” says Bron. “The fruit isn’t just sitting around waiting for an order.”

For North Island clients, it is three days from tree to table, and between four and five for those way down south.

Their tag line of ‘it’s like picking your own without getting dirty’ rings true.

“Sandy liaises with most of the growers and finds us new ones.”

And the kids get involved in the holidays too, helping with the packing and carefully popping cards into the boxes before they’re picked up by the courier driver.

The Kemps grow only their oranges, with everything else sourced from neighbours, friends and others with good product.

Everything is driven by quality.

“That is very important to us,” she says. “Once you have a system in place and these wonderfully supportive growers, it is just about increasing the volumes. We just want everyone involved with Twisted Citrus to benefit.”

They’re always on the lookout for new things to try but it’s got to pass stringent tests before it makes it into a box.

“We are very fussy about what we include.”

It is fitting that when Bron and Sandy Kemp and their fledgling Twisted Citrus company got their first order they were at Rainbow’s End with their children.

The ensuing two years have certainly been a roller coaster ride — albeit more up than down.

This is a couple who like to think outside the box.

It was 2014 and Sandy was selling their oranges at the side of the road in Hawke’s Bay.

“The money was rubbish for oranges so we were trying to think of different ways to sell them,” remembers Bron.

The feedback from grateful customers underlined what they already knew — Gisborne oranges were the best. So they turned to the internet.

“We saw they were doing it in Aussie and knew a lot of people were going online to shop.”

Key to their move though was the provenance of the fruit — people wanted to know exactly where the fruit was coming from.

The name was hatched and a website was created — which in itself was far more work than Bron had ever imagined.

Then it was a matter of wait and see.

“We were in Auckland at Rainbow’s End and the first order came through. It was a weird kind of feeling but neat to get to that point. So much had gone into getting that far.”

The boxes of oranges were proving a hit — particularly in the South Island, closely followed by Auckland — and soon customers were asking for more variety . . . lemons, limes, avocados, tamarillos and grapefruit joined the mandarin and orange staples.

“When we started, I wasn’t really prepared that it would be a full-time job for me.”

It is a juggle for this former nurse. She loves nothing more than being a mum for their children Hattie (13), Joe (11) and Stella (9), and likes to be there for them after school.

“Twisted Citrus has morphed into something a lot more than we thought it would.”

Social media has been a big driver for the company, which had 242 percent growth in its first year and already 160 percent this year.

“We launched at the right time as it is tougher now on Facebook as you get less visibility. It was much easier to get our message out there before.”

And their customers generally become their biggest advertisement as word of mouth spreads about just how good their product is.

Everything is picked to order.

“That makes us different from everyone else,” says Bron. “The fruit isn’t just sitting around waiting for an order.”

For North Island clients, it is three days from tree to table, and between four and five for those way down south.

Their tag line of ‘it’s like picking your own without getting dirty’ rings true.

“Sandy liaises with most of the growers and finds us new ones.”

And the kids get involved in the holidays too, helping with the packing and carefully popping cards into the boxes before they’re picked up by the courier driver.

The Kemps grow only their oranges, with everything else sourced from neighbours, friends and others with good product.

Everything is driven by quality.

“That is very important to us,” she says. “Once you have a system in place and these wonderfully supportive growers, it is just about increasing the volumes. We just want everyone involved with Twisted Citrus to benefit.”

They’re always on the lookout for new things to try but it’s got to pass stringent tests before it makes it into a box.

“We are very fussy about what we include.”

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